For those of you who have seen my simpering, slavishly devotional blurbs and press releases in the past re Akron/Family, wherein I make ridiculous claims about them (which I happen to believe!), it should come as no surprise to you now when I reiterate they are one of the best bands on the planet. I don't recall seeing such fantastic live shows ever, except maybe Pere Ubu at the Whisky in LA circa 1978 or Pink Floyd circa Umma Gumma era 1968/9. Take those unrelated reference points and mix in The Beatles, Chicago Art Ensemble, Credence Clearwater Revival, The Grateful Dead, The Hollies, The Butthole Surfers, Led Zeppelin, and you might get a notion - probably not. Best thing is to see them live and listen to their recordings, and I'll shut up. Anyway, this record comes the closest to bridging the gap between the chaos, rock action, tribal bongo-banging and sentimental sing-alongs of their live shows and the necessarily more cerebral, or at least worked-over and layered process of recording in the studio (where they excel by the way, being patient and obsessive techno nerds as well as rampaging apes on demand). So, there's some beautiful songs and harmonies on this album, and also some wild and weird jams, all in the service of their chosen Deity, or Nothingness, or LOVE, or whatever it is they're on about. I enjoy the music, and I hope you do too… The album was recorded and produced by Andrew Weiss and mixed variously at Trout Recording by Bryce Goggin, at Excello Studios by Ethan Donaldson and by Andrew Weiss at Zion House Of Flesh.
- Michael Gira/Young God Records - 2007
Akron/Family Says: Notes on Recording Love is Simple:
Recording is not… so simple… Almost a year has passed now… And before that almost a year since we had been together in a room and not on the road. All of us scattered as quickly as possible to new homes after returning from a tour and another tour that bled together and never stopped. We didn't really talk much, or hang out and sit on the stoop together any more. We had lovingly hugged each other goodbye and tried to forget the van with no heat and the bronchitis and everyone's combined smells for a while to clear our heads and fall in love with other things for a summer. So when it came time to sit down and play for the first time in front of only ourselves, each of us had our own little bout with stage fright. But at last with glee we let loose. We remembered how sweet the other's laughs could be, how great guitar solo's were, and how 4 voices in a room could feel like a happening. We had FUN! And so from songs inside our heads, and words on papers in accordian folders, and playing in Seth's parent's garage and getting yelled at by neighbors, we took these songs to Canada and then settled down with them in the woods of New Jersey to record with Andrew Weiss… We met Andrew at a bowling alley in Asbury Park, those same Springsteen stomping grounds. All long hair and glasses and sandals and cigaretted he invited us to his house to record. After finding out he had made all the Ween records (except for the country one) and then comparing us to the Boredoms, we were sold. And so somewhere in the woods of New Jersey, where the lands are filled with Midwestern ceramic sculptures, mirrored lawn ball pulpits, pine tree grapes, and voodoo iconography, we settled in for two weeks to record our second fourth record… Andrew challenged us in ways unforeseen. He fed us copious amounts of stovetop espresso 3 hours past bedtime, he told us how Neil Young had always eaten a huge bowl of pasta right before a show, he reminded us that the records we loved and grew up on all lived in "no place", that Hall and Oates didn't get it right until their 10th try, and finally, he made us try again, and again, and again… The completion of our first cycle, this record is both a love letter to the past and a launching pad into the future. And in a way not before captured, this record has the unmistakable field holler of friendship and brotherhood… Hues from all our records emerge and then dematerialize back into the portaled journey from beginnings to new ends. On the way we see the friendly sounds we love so much only to have them eventually submerge back into the watered universal womb to prepare for what is TRULY next, what new lunged Hendrixian wonder world lays ahead for humanity and sound… Suoni per il Popolo, the future: we will fuck shit up!
Akron/Family - Love Is Simple
Posted on 05 October 2007
by Rich Hughes
“Hey, you noticed? Eveyone is crazy!“. I’m not sure there’s a better way to discuss this album than start with this line from “I’ve Got Some Friends”, one of the many folk-tinged-psychedelic songs that appear on Love Is Simple, their third album. They’ve always had an ear for the more obscure side of musical development and this album is no different, though it sees the number of ideas crammed into one album slightly down on last years meandering opus Meek Warrior. Whether you think these guys are “crazy” are not will depend entirely on whether you like your songs straight or with a twist. You can never second guess where Akron/Family are going to take you, but as long as you hold their hand, you won’t get lost.
We’ll start with the psychedelic folk of “Ed Is A Portal”. Seven minutes of tribal chants, chunky banjos, electro-breakdowns and hippy values. It feels like three songs squeezed into one. Just when you think you’ve got to grips with the chants and fuzzed vocals, it changes direction. It’s a magnificent piece of work and one that pretty much sums up Akron/Family as a whole. It’s obvious why Michael Gira (aka Angels of Light) uses these guys as his backing band - they share his same cosmic vision of music. They can also completely wrong foot you. The album actually starts with “Love, Love , Love (Everyone)” which could be a new hippy anthem. It’s simple acoustic guitar compliments the simple words that echo the simple themes, but put so plainly it’s beautitful; “Go out and love, love, love (everyone)“. It’s proof that they don’t need to embelish everything they do with layers upon layers of ideas and musical themes. Another standout track is “Lake Song / New Ceremonial Music For Moms” which apes 70’s folk masterpieces of the Fairpoint Convention at the beginning but descends into something altogether more involving. There’s the occassional buzz of guitar that hints of a more rock approach, but it’s spanish guitar flourishes around the simple, but obvioussly tibal, rhythms become picked apart as it descends into a wall of chants and sinister vocals. It’s not world music, but worldly music. Tapping into hopes, fears and dreams that everyone has no matter where they are in the world.
The majesty of all the tracks can get a bit dauting over the entire albums. The middle section contains tracks that all pass the five minute mark without blinking. But at least the music contined within these songs is relatively straight forward. The themes of love and family pervail all the tracks. The use of chanting and tribal rhythms just serves to cement the fact that we’re all part of one global family. Yes, it might by the hippy ideal and this is by far the most hippy-tastic album I’ve listened to all year - Devendra Banhart has got nothing on these guys. “There’s So Many Colours” is as close to early 70’s prog as we’re going to get without developing a time machine. The folk tinged madness of early, Pete Gabriel era Genesis, Yes meandering guitar solos and Barrett era Floyd vocals and songwriting. The fact that it’s over eight minutes just compounds it.
There’s a couple of times they miss the mark however. The playful “Phenomena” is another slice of prog-rock, but it feels a little out of place, the whirring electric guitars spoil the delicate vocals and acoustic guitar intro. The experienmental jazz intro to “Of All The Things” might not have sounded out of place on Battles Mirrored; bouncing rhythms and quirky guitar solos. But it’s underlying musicality is, once again, more Worldy than electronic and it’s off-kilter delivery just sounds a touch strained.
What you’re going to think about this album will be influenced by whether you’ve read this far without giving up. If this mad and crazy infusion of the hippy dream and tribal rythms has you intrigued, then you’re going to have to give this a listen. If you’ve been put off by my description, then it’s best to stay away. I, however, have been completely mesmerised by this meandering opus of a record.
Akron/Family Love Is Simple (Young God) This is one of those great albums, not just a collection of songs, but like the days of yore when each song was it’s own revelation, this set of eleven songs moves from strength to strength with mind-blowing agility. Ed Is a Portal sounds like a cast of hundreds shaking up a holy nondenominational spiritual sort of visionary folk rock. But this is never off-putting, in fact they are going out of their way to be as humane and friendly as possible via a recording. Very earthly and grounded, with unbounded musical attributes and stylistic plundering that reaches from surreal Butthole Surfers mayhem, to giddy Todd Rundgren manic pop within the song I’ve Got Some Friends alone. And then there’s the elevated sunshiney pop that becomes a tribal chant/howl of Lake Song/New Ceremonial Music for Moms. There’s So Many Colors begins like a Father Yod family singalong that slides into extraterrestrial electric guitar interpolations, massed male lead vocalists repeating while thundering psychedelic glory explodes all around, sliding into acoustic quietude to close this chapter. The universal all-ages lullaby of Crickets is one of those songs that not only lifts you up, but offers some sort of very tangible magical reassurance as well. Phenomena is an angular Abbey Road Beatles bristling with compressed angst and genius. There’s all that and much more in this fifty six minute masterpiece.
George Parsons/ Dream Magazine